“We mostly forgot this during the Trump years, but it really is all about abortion.” Thus Justin Lee on Twitter, and he’s really not wrong. Competition for most amusing panicked tweet about Texas’s new Bill 8 was stiff, but I was partial to the lament of Dara Kass, MD: “With so much suffering right now- between COVID, Afghanistan, extreme weather, poverty… to watch Texas intentionally torture people who get pregnant and seek a constitutionally protected abortion, might be my last straw….” Really milking the Afghanistan parallel, one person who fancies himself a cartoonist even produced a panel of a plane at takeoff with desperate Texas women clinging on. (I seem to have misplaced it, alas, but you have my word that it was just as hideous as it sounds.)
The caterwauling is doubly amusing for being out of proportion to the actual legal reality on the ground, which appears weird and confusing and not likely to be a massive pro-life upset in the long run. In a Halley’s comet moment, I find myself agreeing with David French’s conclusion that this is actually going to prove a sideshow for the main court fight coming later this fall. Though, naturally, I’m pleased if meanwhile amidst the immediate chaos, some babies are, y’know, not killed. As baby-killing is a practice I frown on, generally speaking.
However, the real Twitter drama wound up revolving around this heavily ratioed take from Columbia U’s Richard Hanania, a political scientist who near as I can tell (I confess, I follow him only casually) prefers to play “Label me if you can.” Fair enough. I’ve tuned in when he’s talking about critical race theory and found his instincts generally sound. Likewise on COVID—we agree that rolling lockdowns are bad, that masking kids is bad, that Ron DeSantis is a public servant, not a public menace, etc.
But, to quote a friend, in a quip I wish I could claim as my own quotable, sometimes you just don’t see eugenics coming.
Of course, Richard has crafted this tweet in such a way that it doesn’t strictly, literally have a position on eugenics. It’s just mentioning a few facts. Because he finds them interesting. For some reason.
Real food for thought, this. Only think of the economic eventualities!
I mean. Richard’s concern for Texas’s government handout eligibility status is touching and all. It just seems, I dunno. Oddly placed.
Others found it a bit odd too, apparently. Not that this bothered Richard, who claimed plausible deniability in maximally dickish fashion. As it were.
Me, turning to the confused low-IQ person next to me: “Ah okay, I get it now, you see all he said was…”
I admit, this is kind of a fun game. Can I play too?
Tweet 1: You can’t screen for massive dickishness before birth, and something like 80% of Twitter is composed of massive dicks. If Twitter doesn’t ban them, we could see a world where Twitter has five million times more massive dicks than any other space where human beings congregate to share their thoughts with the world, and similar numbers for other obnoxious traits, like halitosis, BO, and “I heart John Derbyshire” tattoos.
Tweet 2: Could be outliers in the whole developed world. There are already negative stereotypes of pasty-faced nerds who won’t shut up about The Bell Curve, one can imagine it getting much more extreme. What if they allow Milo to come back, while Telegram bans him?
Tweet 3: Would Twitter lose its digital empire? Would liberals forget to be “liberal”? Many interesting things to think about.
10 hours later…
Tweet 4: The “pro-free-speech” crowd seems to have jumped to the conclusion that having more massive dicks on Twitter is bad. Tells you something, doesn’t it?
Anyway, back to The Discourse: At this point, Razib Khan, someone else I don’t follow closely but of whom I’ve sometimes casually thought “Oh yeah, that seems sensible” when I see a take of his float by on the Twitters, decided to enter the chat. He describes himself as being in the “mushy middle” on abortion, personally, but the hosts of Commentary podcast shouldn’t take out their ire on Dick. They should take it out on the archetypal suburban hausfrau for whom a Downs kid is just too much. “What Dick said was not politic,” he concedes mildly, “but it reflects some real patterns.” Indeed, some of the social justice academics who talk loudest about eugenics in their professional lives aren’t practicing what they preach. Is it “horrifying?” Of course. But it’s happening. And everybody’s doing it. So “get over yourselves,” advises Razib.
Okay. Fair enough, I guess? But meanwhile, does Razib have any life advice for the many people who ratioed Hanania with photo evidence of their own choice to, y’know, not kill their disabled babies? No? No comment? I didn’t think so.
All this reminds me of the past summer’s revival of That Tweet by Richard Dawkins, where he had famously told a woman contemplating this hypothetical that it would be best to “abort it and try again.” Richard Dawkins being less clever about this sort of thing than Richard Hanania, he didn’t even pretend to bother to leave himself any wiggle room here, though he did seem palpably uncomfortable under Brendan O’Connor’s keen knife in their interview. And, like Khan rushing in on the other Richard’s behalf, Dawkins gestured at the numerous women for whom he was just saying the quiet part out loud.
I wrote a couple pieces about this at the time, one for The Spectator, another here at the Substack, where I collected some of the truly appalling comments people had left under my Spectator piece in one thread. People openly wondering what all the fuss was about, why this was considered a Big Deal, why we couldn’t just talk normally about… this sort of thing.
“Normal” is the operative word here. Which is why I think Kristi Noem got it right in her reaction on FOX:
It’s starting to normalize a conversation that some people just aren’t acceptable. And we’ve seen that throughout history where people have started discussions and started to eliminate whole groups of people. And we need to make sure that we stand against that. There are some countries in Europe that have really eliminated Down Syndrome individuals and babies, and that’s why South Dakota wanted to take a stand against eugenics. Every single life is precious.
In other words, Noem would read Khan’s “defense” of Hanania and say “Er, yes we know. We know Icelandic housewives are pressured by family, friends, peers, etc. not to carry disabled children to term. We know countries like this have created a culture so monolithically anti-disabled-life that this has become the social norm. That’s the problem.”
America is not that country, yet. She is too large, too feisty, too difficult to wrangle and pin down. She contains too many multitudes. She contains states painted red.